Stories indexed with the term ‘downtown density’

Dems Forum Part 4: Downtown Ann Arbor

Editor’s note: A forum hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party on June 8, 2013 drew six of seven total city council candidates who’ve qualified for the primary ballot.

From left: Julie Grand (Ward 3 challenger), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3 incumbent), Jack Eaton (Ward 3 challenger), Mike Anglin (Ward 5 incumbent), Kirk Westphal (Ward 2 challenger), Sabra Briere (Ward 1 incumbent).

From left: Julie Grand (Ward 3 challenger), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3 incumbent), Jack Eaton (Ward 4 challenger), Mike Anglin (Ward 5 incumbent), Kirk Westphal (Ward 2 candidate), and Sabra Briere (Ward 1 incumbent).

In the Aug. 6 Democratic primary, only two wards offer contested races. In Ward 3, Democratic voters will choose between incumbent Stephen Kunselman and Julie Grand. Ward 4 voters will have a choice between incumbent Marcia Higgins and Jack Eaton. Higgins was reported to have been sick and was unable to attend.

The format of the event eventually allowed other candidates who are unopposed in the Democratic primary to participate: Mike Anglin (Ward 5 incumbent), Sabra Briere (Ward 1 incumbent), and Kirk Westphal, who’s challenging incumbent Jane Lumm in Ward 2. Lumm, who was elected to the council as an independent, was in the audience at the forum but didn’t participate. The event was held at the Ann Arbor Community Center on North Main Street. The Chronicle’s coverage is presented in a multiple-part series, based on common threads that formed directly in response to questions posed to the candidates, or that cut across multiple responses.

More than one question posed to candidates was explicitly designed to elicit views on downtown Ann Arbor. Taken as a group, the questions prompted responses that formed several discrete subtopics related to land use and planning: planning in general; planning specifically for city-owned properties; and planning for a hotel/conference center.

Another general theme covered the role of the downtown in the life of the city of Ann Arbor, with additional subtopics that included: the appropriate balance of investment between downtown and non-downtown neighborhoods; who should and does benefit from the downtown; and the role of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

This report includes candidate responses on these issues.

Part 1 of this series focused on the candidates’ concept of and connection to Ann Arbor, while Part 2 looked at their personal styles of engagement and views of how the council interacts. Part 3 reported on the theme of connections, including physical connections like transportation, as well as how people are connected to local government. Chronicle election coverage is tagged with “2013 primary election.” [Full Story]

Possible Moratorium To Delay 413 E. Huron?

According to city council sources, a resolution calling for a moratorium on development in downtown Ann Arbor will be placed on the Feb. 19, 2013 meeting agenda. As of Feb. 14, the item had not yet been added.

Ann Arbor zoning. Darker red areas are zoned D1. Lighter brownish areas are zoned D2.

Ann Arbor zoning. Darker red areas are zoned D1. Lighter brownish areas are zoned D2.

If the moratorium were enacted – a pause that might last up to a year – it would delay a controversial proposed residential project at 413 E. Huron. During the proposed moratorium, the planning commission would be directed to review the zoning designations for the D1 (downtown core) and D2 (interface), and make recommendations to the city council for possible zoning changes. During the moratorium, projects for D1 and D2 areas that do not already have a planning commission recommendation of approval could not be considered by the city council. The D1 and D2 zoning is relatively young, having been enacted on Nov. 16, 2009 – as the result of the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (A2D2) process.

Results of the planning commission’s review of D1 and D2 zoning, according to the Feb. 19 draft resolution, would be due to the city council by the end of August 2013. The maximum length of the moratorium would be a year from the date of enactment. If the council were to change the zoning designation, and if that decision survived any legal challenge, that could ultimately stop the 413 E. Huron project from ever being built.

That project calls for a 14-story, 271,855-square-foot apartment building with 533 bedrooms, marketed primarily to university students. The parcel is zoned D1 – the highest allowable density in the city. The northern edge of the site is adjacent to the Old Fourth Ward Historic District, including historic single-family homes along North Division. [Full Story]

413 E. Huron Goes to Council, Despite Protest

Following a lengthy discussion and public hearing that drew 33 speakers, Ann Arbor planning commissioners voted 5-3 to recommend approval of the site plan and development agreement for a controversial development at 413 E. Huron, at the northeast corner of Huron and Division. But the vote tally meant that the site plan failed to reach the required six votes to achieve a recommendation of approval. The action at the commission’s Feb. 5, 2013 meeting followed an earlier decision on Jan. 15, 2103 to postpone a recommendation, pending input from the Michigan Dept. of Transportation.

Voting against the project were Sabra Briere, Ken Clein and Wendy Woods. Voting to recommend the project were Diane Giannola, Bonnie Bona, Tony … [Full Story]

Council Takes Step to Alter Pedestrian Law

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Nov. 10, 2011): A further revision to the city’s pedestrian safety ordinance took up most of the council’s time at Thursday’s meeting.

Rapundalo signing student attendance sheets

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) was first to arrive at the council’s meeting and was rewarded by a dozen or so requests from high school students who needed a signature to attest to their attendance for a class assignment. It was Rapundalo’s last meeting, having lost the Ward 2 election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to Jane Lumm. (Photos by the writer.)

The council had made several revisions to the law in 2010, including a requirement that motorists accommodate not only pedestrians who are “within” a crosswalk, but also those who are “approaching” a crosswalk. Thursday’s initial revision amended out the “approaching” language in favor of the following wording: “… the driver of a vehicle shall stop before entering a crosswalk and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian stopped at the curb or ramp leading to a crosswalk and to every pedestrian within a crosswalk.”

The second and final vote on the pedestrian ordinance change is expected to come after a council working session in December, and after a public hearing at the council meeting when the final vote is taken. Based on deliberations on the change at Thursday’s meeting, the outcome of that vote is not a foregone conclusion, and further revisions might be possible.

The council also took action at the Nov. 10 meeting that will allow two downtown residential projects to start construction. The council approved the site plan for The Varsity Ann Arbor, a “planned project” consisting of a 13-story apartment building with 181 units at 425 E. Washington, between 411 Lofts and the First Baptist Church.

And the final deal was approved with Village Green to purchase the city-owned parcel at First and Washington. On that site Village Green will build a 244-space parking deck as the first two stories of a 9-story building with 156 dwelling units – City Apartments.

The council gave final approval to a change in its taxicab ordinance, spelling out conditions under which licenses can be revoked or suspended.

The council also gave final approval to two ordinances that make retiree health care and pension benefits for two of the city’s larger unions parallel to benefits for non-union employees. The approvals gave Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) an opportunity to comment on the labor issues that had been a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, which concluded unsuccessfully on Tuesday.

It was due to the election held on Tuesday that the council’s meeting was shifted from its regular Monday meeting slot to Thursday. The shift is stipulated in the city charter. All council incumbents won their races except for Rapundalo, a Democrat defeated by Jane Lumm, who was running as an independent. Rapundalo began his final meeting by signing multiple attendance sheets for high school students who were attending the meeting on a class assignment, and ended it by hearing praise from his colleagues around the table. [Full Story]

City Council OKs The Varsity Ann Arbor

At its Nov. 10, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave approval to a residential project on East Washington Street: The Varsity Ann Arbor. The Varsity is a “planned project” consisting of a 13-story apartment building with 181 units at 425 E. Washington, between 411 Lofts and the First Baptist Church.

The city planning commission recommended approval of The Varsity at its Oct. 4, 2011 meeting.

Intended for students, it’s the first project to go through the city’s new design review process. The Varsity was first considered at the planning commission’s Sept. 20 meeting, but postponed.

A “planned project” allows modifications of the area, height, and placement requirements related to permanent open space preservation, if the project would result in “the preservation of natural features, additional open space, greater building or parking setback, energy conserving design, preservation of historic or architectural features, expansion of the supply of affordable housing for lower income households or a beneficial arrangement of buildings.” However, all other zoning code requirements must still be met – including the permitted uses, maximum density, and maximum floor area.

The Varsity was submitted as a planned project in order to make the plaza area off Washington Street larger than what would have been required by the zoning code.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]